The Mountain Times

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Hotel Impossible revitalizes the Vermont Inn prioritizing family

On Monday night, July 23, about 30 friends and family gathered for the national debut of the Vermont Inn's spotlight on the Travel Channel's show "Hotel Impossible." Samantha McLemore and Jeremy "JB" Smith, the new owners of the Inn and Tim Hammond, McLemore's brother in-law and the innkeeper, were particularly anxious prior to the showing as no one knew the slant the final cut would take. After days of shooting, the Hotel Impossible crew was tasked with cutting down the film to just one hour.

The 16 bedroom Vermont Inn was selected as a feature for Hotel Impossible, one of the Travel Channel's most popular shows, because of its potential for success after some necessary changes. Not knowing what would happen to their inn going into the show, Smith and McLemore knew something had to change and were desperate for expert help. With open minds, and hearts full of hope, they welcomed Anthony Melchiorri, the hotel "fixer," into the Vermont Inn. With a lot of laughter and many tears, they shared their story.

Built in 1840, the hotel has been through many transformations, another chapter is now being written. This time it has a little to do with spackling and paint and more to do with family, relationships, workmanship, and a future for the next generation.

It all started with a dream to own an inn in the heart of the Green Mountains; trials and tribulations came shortly after.

Since McLemore and Smith bought the Inn at an auction November 8, 2011 for $270,000, they have spent over $500,000 and were continuing to lose money. Major renovations were needed at the onset, which was expected. But adding to that loss, was low traffic coming through their restaurant and many empty rooms. To avoid hiring help and increasing the losses, Hammond was working over 100 hours a week, while trying to balance his role as a husband and father. Hammond's wife Jennifer (McLemore's sister), felt like a single mother, raising her kids in the Inn while her husband worked long hours. Not only was this affecting her marriage, it was causing resentment towards her sister for hiring Hammond to run the Inn.

McLemore and Smith still live in Baltimore and trust Hammond to manage the restaurant, the Inn, and still have time for his family. He takes a great deal of personal pride in the Inn's success but it is at the expense of his family life.

The status quo was unsustainable. The new owners of the Vermont Inn knew they were in trouble and were going to have to make some tough decisions.

Camera crews followed Anthony Melchiorri, an arrogant host dressed in a black suit and tie. He followed the family around the Inn, stomping through their overgrown gardens, digging through their profit and loss statements, questioning the business plans and goals, and asking personal questions about family dynamics and expectations.

When Melchiorri learned that Hammond spent about 40 of his hours each week in a restaurant that was consistently losing money, he knew instantly that the restaurant needed to go, at least for now.

The choice to close the restaurant was not decided lightly- McLemore was especially weary. But when Melchiorri presented the facts it became clear. The restaurant was losing about $10,000 per month, was overextending Hammond, and it was estimated that it would take at least a year for it to turn around. Since all agreed that the status quo could not be sustained, they decided to re-focused their marketing efforts on the thing that does turn a profit; booking guests in their rooms.

In addition to the restaurant closing, Melchiorri had many other recommendations.

The beginning scenes were of garbage cans, toilet plungers and broken shutters, a housekeeping closet in disarray, and a 'bridal suite' that was outdated. In short, there was a lot of work to do.

TRANSFORMATION
Turning the Vermont Inn into a wedding destination was a long-term goal for McLemore and Smith when they bought the Inn. But after Melchiorri's unflattering laundry list of property "failures," that dream had all but disappeared. So it was a great surprise when Melchiorri brought in Sabrina Brown of Woodstock Productions, a wedding planner from Woodstock.

Vermont is consistently ranked a top destination for weddings and the Vermont Inn has 20,000 people that drive by on Route 4 every busy weekend in Killington. With these facts Melchiorri saw hosting weddings not as a dream, but as an immediate opportunity.

To start, they needed pictures of a beautiful wedding on the property in order to promote the venue as a wedding destination. The only way to do that was to have a wedding - they had two days to make it happen.

Brown was responsible for finding the bride and groom, an interior designer was hired to completely transform the bridal suite, and everyone got busy working to realize this dream.

One weekend wedding could fill all of their rooms (32 bookings) and that would slowly help them get out of the red.
In a week, the Vermont Inn was given a facelift and a new focus. From little changes of light fixtures to an incredible bridal suite, the Vermont Inn was transformed into a premier wedding destination.

The wedding went off without a hitch and the photos were perhaps even more spectacular with the ominous clouds threatening.
It wasn't only the Inn that changed, a transformation happened within the family too. They pulled together to pull off a wedding. And without the restaurant, Tim Hammond was able to carve out more time for his wife and two-year-old daughter- and newborn son, born Thursday, July 19. The sisters embraced with renewed determination (and tears), saying they wanted to see this thing through as a family.

The Vermont Inn has been set on a new path and viewers nationwide got a glimpse of just how difficult it can be to run a small inn. Although the future is still uncertain for the Vermont Inn, all are hopeful that they are headed in the direction of prosperity.
Many more transformations will happen in the years to come, albeit less publicly. The lesson from their story is one to remember: Dreams are attainable with hard work, proper focus and, most importantly, family.

To learn more about the Vermont Inn visit: http://www.vermontinn.com
To watch the Travel Channel's "Hotel Impossible" feature on the Vermont Inn visit: www.travelchannel.com/video/this-is-not-a-tv-show-to-me

Tagged: Vermont Inn, Hotel Impossible, Trike Race